21/11/19 – Design and Place-making in the planning process

The Government have recently published a National Design Guide which sets out the characteristics of well-designed places and demonstrates what good design means in practice. This follows revisions to the National Planning Policy Framework made in February 2019, having placed more importance on achieving good design.

The Design Guide forms part of the Government’s collection of ‘Planning Practice Guidance’ and is intended to be read alongside guidance on design process and tools.

The Guide introduces ten characteristics focused on achieving a well-designed place. It considers that well designed places have individual characteristics which work together to create its physical ‘Character’.

Many Local Authorities already have Design Guides adopted as Supplementary Planning Documents focusing on ensuring development is characteristic of its surroundings, but what is notable about the National Design Guide is its emphasis on ‘Community’ and ‘Climate’ as part of the design process.

A National Model Design Code, will be published setting out detailed standards for key elements of successful design. This will be subject to consultation and consider the findings of the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission who are due to publish their final report in December 2019, including recommendations to the Government on how to promote and increase the use of high-quality design for new build homes and neighbourhoods.

The Government understands that quality design does not look the same across different areas of the country, for instance, that by definition local vernacular differs. It is for this reason, that local planning authorities will be expected to develop their own design codes or guides, taking into consideration the National Model Design Code. These will set out clear parameters for what good quality design looks like in their area, following appropriate local consultation.

In the absence of local design guidance, local planning authorities will be expected to defer to the illustrated National Design Guide and National Model Design Code. This will be consulted on, alongside the consultation on the use of the National Model Design Code, in early 2020.

Whilst the Government’s steps will inevitably be welcomed by the general public to help attain better quality design and development on major development projects, it remains to be seen how the National Design Guide and Model Design Code will be interpreted by local planning authorities particularly on smaller-scale developments.

For further information please contact Andrew Gray, Senior Planning Consultant, on 01604 880163 or andrew.gray@argroup.co.uk

Andrew Gray